Neurotoxins from snake venoms and α-Conotoxin ImI inhibit functionally active Ionotropic γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors
Published in the U.S.A. Ionotropic receptors of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABAAR) regulate neuronal inhibition and are targeted by benzodiazepines and general anesthetics. We show that a fluorescent derivative of α-cobratoxin (α-Ctx), belonging to the family of three-finger toxins from snake venoms, specifically stained the α1β3γ2 receptor; and at 10 μM α-Ctx completely blocked GABA-induced currents in this receptor expressed in Xenopus oocytes (IC50=236 nM) and less potently inhibited α1β2γ2≈α2β2γ2 α5β2γ2 α2β3γ2 and α1β3δ GABAARs. The α1β3γ2 receptor was also inhibited by some other three-finger toxins, long α-neurotoxin Ls III and nonconventional toxin WTX. α-Conotoxin ImI displayed inhibitory activity as well. Electrophysiology experiments showed mixed competitive and noncompetitive α-Ctx action. Fluorescent α-Ctx, however, could be displaced by muscimol indicating that most of the α-Ctx-binding sites overlap with the orthosteric sites at the β/α subunit interface. Modeling and molecular dynamic studies indicated that α-Ctx or α-bungarotoxin seem to interact with GABAAR in a way similar to their interaction with the acetylcholine-binding protein or the ligand-binding domain of nicotinic receptors. This was supported by mutagenesis studies and experiments with α-conotoxin ImI and a chimeric Naja oxiana α-neurotoxin indicating that the major role in α-Ctx binding to GABAAR is played by the tip of its central loop II accommodating under loop C of the receptors.